Grand Help

Normally when your husband is out of town on a business trip, it means mom is more overwhelmed.

Adam hardly travels but tonight he did. And I was not more overwhelmed in the least.

Because I had not one,DSC_0002

not two,DSC_0004

but THREE grandparents here to help me.DSC_0012

And boy were we Calisoffs all spoiled rotten by it!

My father watched the twins and waited for Ben’s bus so I could take Jack and his buddies on a playdate at the Morton Arboretum.

A spinning bowl of flowers and two telescopes makes for a cool kaleidoscope.

A spinning bowl of flowers and two telescopes makes for a cool kaleidoscope.

Climbing in Adventure Woods

Climbing in Adventure Woods

DSC_0742 DSC_0749

When we arrived home we were greeted by Bubbie and Grandpa Bill. They showered the kids with gifts. Sticker books and books so sneakily educational that the kids had no idea they were learning about dinosaurs and wildlife.

Then, the best gift of all, they spent time enjoying those books with the kids.


As if that wasn’t enough, Bubbie and Grandpa Bill went on to treat us to a very fancy sushi dinner at one of the kids favorite restaurants.

Afterwards Grandpa Devensky took us all out for ice cream.

It was such a lovely evening: beautiful weather, spending time with family, eating great food.

The kids are so lucky to have so many loving, involved relatives in their lives. If only they all lived closer…

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Kane County Cougars

Adam’s firm organized a family outing at the Kane County Cougars field yesterday.

At first I was worried about getting 4 boys to sit patiently and watch baseball during what should be a nap time, but as it turns out they rented the terrace. There were seats in the front, but also a large area to run around in behind them.


Staring contest

DSC_0638We stayed as long as we could, then took the kids to the kids zone to burn off some energy. On our way, Ozzie the mascot made an appearance…

DSC_0645Amazing how the kids love the adults dressed in costume almost as much as they enjoy dressing in costume themselves.

The kids zone was a pay to play space with lots of bouncy houses and a playground.

DSC_0649DSC_0658DSC_0657There were inflatables of every kind. Besides the traditional bouncy house, there were obstacle course, baseball, soccer and basketball ones, slides and more!

After a couple of hours we were ready to head back to the city.

DSC_0659It was a nice outing for the whole family. If it wasn’t so far from our house I would consider doing it again.

Guess what we found waiting for us when we got home?


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Block Party 2015

Another year, another great party!

It’s a fairly set formula, but it’s so fantastic that there is absolutely no need to change it.

Who doesn’t like to walk out of their house to a fresh cone of cotton candy (or two? or three?).


And when you are done, it’s crafting time! One of the neighbors organizes this great crafting table every year…


Burgers, hot dogs, brats, wine, kegs and a special food stand from Summer House were part of the afternoon as well…


They just kept bringing out stuff! I was full after the fried chicken, corn, guac and salsa but I ate the cookies and pizza that brought out later anyway!

We were so busy with all the other stuff we almost missed the magician!


The Great Scott delighted kids of all ages with his jokes and tricks.


Afterwards, he made balloons for all the kids.


Did I mention there was a bouncy house too?


And the ice cream truck? He pulled up and gave out treats to all the kids.


And we got to spend some time with friends. Mostly we ran after kids, though. Actually I think our kids enjoyed our friends more than we did…


When it got dark the glow in the dark toys came out and the kids had another round of fun…


I don’t think we can ever move.

You know it's a good party when public urination is involved!

(You know it’s a good party when public urination is involved!)

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Sticker Motivation

Aunt Aloha and Uncle Ronnie were in town last night. Actually they were here to see one of their grandchildren compete in the Olympic golf tryouts at Olympia Fields.


He had already surpassed the first qualifying round and this week will compete in the second round. Still they managed to find time to drive over an hour away to visit us for the evening. IMG_1260 As usual, they showed up bearing wonderful, age appropriate gifts that the kids loved. There were books about Star Wars AND Legos. A triple win for the older boys. Adam and I were treated to a lovely dinner out.

IMG_4141We got a chance to catch up with them and hear what was going on in the lives of all the Baumgartens. They also had four kids, so there is always something happening. I got a glimpse at what my future would be like. Guess “not busy” is off the table forever.

The other gift they got was for the twins. It was a sticker chart. The kids glommed onto it, asking all day the next day how they could get more stickers.DSC_0551 I’ve introduced chore charts before with little success, but for some reason this time they all got into it. I had Ben doing laundry, Sam unloaded the dishwasher and Jack cleaning up legos.

It was awesome.

It reminded me I need to be better about rewarding more than punishing. Same result, but done in a totally different way.

Thanks Aloha and Ronnie, hope to see you again soon! And if your grandson qualifies, I’ve got an extra Elmo sticker here waiting for him…

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Tooth Fairy Strikes Again

No, not Ben this time.

Yesterday while we were out to breakfast at Walker Brothers, Jack abruptly spit out his half eaten blueberry pancake and said he was done eating.

We finally figured out he lost the tooth and perhaps ate it, until Adam dug with his bare hands through the mush to find it.

Jack was so sweet, so innocently excited about the tooth fairy coming. Sometimes when you have a lot of kids, you forget that your oldest kid is still just a child, but then they do something like that and you remember all over again.

“Do you think the tooth fairy will bring you an egg hunt?” I asked him. He seemed upset that the tooth fairy used that method with Ben but never on him.

“Don’t know. It’s always a surprise. That’s part of the fun.” He replied.

Right, no egg hunt then.

I noticed at breakfast he is starting to be able to do the mazes and word searches on the children’s menu. An idea struck…

DSC_0550A maze hunt. Each map had three pictures. Each maze only led to one picture, and that picture was the next clue.

I was worried the last maze would be too difficult but Jack didn’t even bother using a pencil to solve any of them!


This time the money was in the cash register. He was very pleased to find it.


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Granola Bars

I’ve been a slacker when it comes to breakfast lately.

During the school year we have a pretty set regimen. No matter what time each kid wakes up, I start banging around in the kitchen by 7am. I have a rotation of pancakes, waffles, croissants, crepes and variation of egg recipes – scrambled, egg sandwiches, over easy. Quiche, bagels, bacon, sausage, yogurt. All meals morning meals are served with a side of fruit either plain or in a smoothie. Sometimes I feel it’s too much bread, especially the bad white stuff, but at least it’s not processed.

Lately I’ve slipped down another level. The twins seem to wake up with the sun. This morning it was 5:40! And Ben, without the kitchen banging, slept until 8:15.

We try to keep the kitchen quiet until all the kids have woken up, but with such a large spread in time, they are begging to be fed. Seems like there have been way to many mornings with processed pop tarts, fruit bars, and granola bars. 

Even though I assuage my guilt by buying Organic Pop Tarts, Trader Joe’s This Strawbery/Blueberry/Fig walks into a bar, and Organic Granola Bars, stuff with no dyes, no BHT, and not a lot of preservatives, I still feel guilty by the mere fact that they are processed.

Then this week I hit my limit trying to find the organic granola bars with chocolate chips on top but without nuts. I broke down and made my own. They have only FIVE ingredients, are easy to make, contain no secret added sugars or words that I have to look up on the computer to understand. I felt much happier serving these babies to my boys this afternoon.


Do you serve your kids a lot of granola bars? These a great start to the morning, a great afternoon snack and pack well in lunch boxes.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola Bars
Recipe type: Granola Bar
Cuisine: Breakfast, Snack
Five ingredient granola bar great for the morning or an afternoon snack.
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1½ cups cheerios (can substitute crisped rice cereal to make it gluten free)
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Line 8x8 pan with tin foil.
  2. Toast oats in dry skillet for 5 minutes
  3. Combine oats and cheerios in a large bowl.
  4. Heat honey on burner until bubbling, add peanut butter. Once peanut butter is melted take it off the heat.
  5. Working quickly, add honey peanut butter mixture to oat cheerios mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. Press mixture into 8x8 pan. Press hard!
  7. Add mini chocolate chips to the top and press again.
  8. Freeze for 2 hours, slice into bars.


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Keeping up with the Anti-Jones

Have you ever felt jealous of someone else’s life? Have you ever felt like, no matter how much you have there is always someone else with more?

Well there is another side to that story. For every person who has more, there is also a person who has less.

I’ve been having a bunch of anti-Jones experiences lately.

Like when I spent many nights stressing about Ben’s party full of kids who all had social and emotional issues. Would it be a complete disaster to have them all in one room? Midway through the party a friend came with her kids and nephew. “I hope you don’t mind that I brought him, his father just died two weeks ago and we are watching him to give the mother some free time.”

I felt very small for worrying about whether or not the kids would have a good time at that point.

Last week I called the appliance guy to fix our stove and dishwasher. He wanted to know if anything was an emergency. Did he need to come over right away? I flashed back to living in China with no stove or dishwasher. Is it urgent? No, I answered. It’s all first world problems.

Life is all about perspective. It’s good to look up and strive for more, but don’t forget to look back and see how far you’ve come. Seeing the whole landscape is what keeps your feet on solid ground.

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